Come a Stranger Summary
by Cynthia Voigt

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Come a Stranger Summary

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

There are times when there is nothing ten-year-old Wilhemina Smiths can do but dance. Her body demands it; the music inside her head demands it. So skilled is she at ballet, she is awarded a scholarship to a summer dance camp for the gifted. Mina, as she is called, is the only black child at the camp, but she scarcely notices this, so enthralled is she with the wonder of the camp, with the fascination of things she is learning about dance and music, and with the view of life outside her hometown of Crisfield.

The following summer Mina returns to camp, but everything is different. She has spent the school year growing, her body is awkward and ungainly, and she can no longer dance with ease and grace. There are other changes also. She begins to see herself as a token black in a sea of white faces, someone who ensures federal funding for the program. Before the middle week of camp, Mina is asked to leave. She thinks it is because of her dancing; she is afraid it is because she is black. Mina is numbed by the experience, embarrassed and ashamed of her body, perhaps ashamed of being black.

It is into this confused state that Tamer Shipp conies and establishes himself in a special way in Mina's life. He is the minister who is substituting for her father during the summer while her father is doing special work for the district church. Tamer helps Mina overcome her feelings of rejection and regain a sense of pride in her black heritage. Although she knows he is married and too old to love her in return, Mina transfers to Tamer all the love she once had for dancing.

At the end of summer, Tamer and his family return to their church in Harlem, and Mina spends the school year dreaming of him and waiting for his return. When the Shipps are once again in Crisfield, Mina finds a way to do something special for Tamer to repay him for the help he has given her. Because Alice Shipp is a "butterfly" wife, uninterested in domestic chores, Tamer's home is chaotic and his children are often neglected. For small pay, Mina spends the daylight hours that summer bringing order and serenity to the Shipp household. Alice is free to go out with friends while Mina stays with the children, performing household tasks. Tamer returns in the evenings to find his wife "giggly and happy," his house clean, dinner on the table, and his children cared for. Mina finds joy in the work because she knows the value of her gift to Tamer. In addition, she encourages Alice to study for her high school...

(The entire section is 691 words.)